Last week, 1,598 people (roughly 20% of the undergraduate student body) said they were “interested” in attending a Facebook event called “Group cry on main green for current state of American politics.” No one showed up. No one.
Yes, the event was largely a joke, but this comically low ratio of people attending Facebook events and the people who actually show up isn’t limited to joke events. More often than not, events are more heavily attended on Facebook than they are in real life. Brown Democrats reported that they usually expect half of the people who attend their events on Facebook (like their debate watch parties) to show up in person. PW’s production of “A Raisin in the Sun” sold out in 3 minutes, but 681 people are still interested or attending on Facebook. The Better World by Design after party was hosted in Pawtucket, but a total of 679 people were interested or attending. Many of these people were Brown students unaffiliated with the conference and probably unaware that it was in Pawtucket.
I first noticed this trend in September, when I saw that 571 people were interested in attending SampleFest at Eastside Marketplace. Could that really be logistically manageable, I wondered? Would there be enough cheddar cheese cubes to go around? Enough toothpicks?
For first-years, the trend might be amplified in the first few weeks of college, when everyone wants to make sure their friends from home know they’re having maximum funtimes, equal parts cultured (oh, you went to the RISD craftfest? How quirky and unique!) and turnt (The Blackout night at the Coliseum? Wow, I had no idea Brown was a party school).
Last Fall, when Facebook changed the event-attending options from “maybe” to “interested,” they opened the floodgates for uncommitted event attending. Even though maybe and interested mean essentially the same thing, “interested” alleviates the subtle commitment of “maybe.” Even if you had no intention of actually going, you could still be interested in the concept of going.
Facebook event-attending culture is like all image-crafting culture on social media: easy to make fun of, but something we all do. Though it’s funny and particularly ridiculous when someone is attending like…nine Facebook events in a day, these events are probably doing more good than harm. They let us know about things happening in the world, and sometimes, we even go out and do them.